CS Energy's ERP upgrade -- which was rolled out early this year -- has enabled it to develop a more efficient internal system for staff training and knowledge transfer.
In late 2006, the Queensland Government-owned electricity generation business completed a shift from SAP's ageing 4.6c release to its ERP 2005 package. Part of the motivation for the shift was simply to remain on a current version of the software and be ready for further expansion.
Support was a major consideration, according to business process manager Robin Whitehead. "There were some good reasons why we needed those service packs to keep coming through."
However, the changeover also enabled the business to more efficiently manage the process of training staff in managing those processes, according to Whitehead.
"We've dropped our training ball pretty badly over time," he said in a presentation at a recent SAP customer conference in Melbourne. "We can no longer rely on a competency transfer by osmosis, which is what happened before."
CR Energy was no stranger to upgrade shifts, having been through a similar process in 1998 to deal with Y2K-related issues.
"It was really about formalising and documenting the business processes," Whitehead said. "The documentation from our previous upgrade was utterly vital and valuable. Documentation needs to be complete."
Staffing was another major issue. "The people are really important," Whitehead said. "Selecting the right internals and externals can make or break your upgrade."
"One of the biggest difficulties we had was skilling up our technical team in all things NetWeaver."
Planning is also always vital, he suggested. "It was very important to set very clear objectives for the team. A lot of what an upgrade's about, particularly from a project management point of view, is mitigating risks."
CS Energy began planning for the upgrade in October last year, and rolled out the system in January. While there were some minor glitches relating to security and payroll production, the process largely went smoothly.
Future plans include a shift to a full service-oriented architecture (SOA). "I'm not quite sure what it is yet, but I'm sure it's pretty good," Whitehead said.
Further use of Acrobat for supporting HR processes is also on the agenda. "We're just about ready to launch the performance appraisal Adobe form," Whitehead said.
CR Energy operates on a fairly lean model, with just three full-time employees (including Whitehead) supporting the package.
As such, regular contact with industry peers is essential, Whitehead said. "My advice to anybody out there is to get out and learn from other people. Be prepared to go outside your normal sphere and learn some stuff."
Getting costs established up-front is also critical. "Do your licence negotiation sooner rather than later, because the good deals are probably going to dry up.